More young people reject militarism
The number of young people in Taiwan who are interested in joining the army has dwindled, showing that youths there are better educated, smarter and unwilling to be trained as killers ("Lack of interest hits recruitment plan", December 29). This is good news for Taiwan.
This is an encouraging trend because it means a lessening of militarism in Asia, one of the greatest curses in the region. Throughout history, the greed, ambition and cruelty of Asian warlords and soldiers, including those from Japan and China, have poisoned relationships within and among nations.
The suppression of the Tai- ping rebels by the Qing dynasty armies was marked by excessive carnage, aided and abetted by the British adventurer, Major-General Charles George Gordon. No lover of China needs to be reminded of Japanese militarism which was fostered by British and American military purchases. The killing of Taiwanese by occupying Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek also reminds us of the cruelty of Asian soldiers toward their own race.
In this era, the tension between mainland authorities and the Chinese people of Taiwan can only be eased by counteracting the harmful influence of militarists. This can be achieved by lowering the number of men under arms, by ending the deployment of cross-strait missiles and bombers and by switching from the military of peaceful and constructing civilian enterprises.
Around the world, young people are appalled by the huge waste of manpower and money given to armies and navies when the globe is facing so many environmental problems that need those resources.
No wonder they refuse to support stupid, self-serving politicians who favour military intimidation, aggression and violence over dialogue and peace.
In the past, large families had many sons who were sacrificed to the gods of war. But now small families cannot risk losing their one son or daughter in overseas escapades sponsored by old men according to the saying, "Young men are sent to die in old men's wars."
So the resolve of Taiwanese youths to decline military service is a welcome sign. Hopefully, many Asian youths will follow them and become involved in peaceful pursuits. Parents and senior citizens should applaud their decision and help Asia move away from its violent, militaristic past.
J. Garner, Sham Shui Po
Breath of fresh air for all Christians
I refer to the letter, "Pope's attack was on very shaky ground" (December 31). I fail to see why Daniel F. Downes would expect Pope Francis to justify his views expressed in his Evangelii Gaudium treatise that "unfettered capitalism is a new tyranny" on economic terms, especially as economics is not called the dismal science for nothing.
Pope Francis is simply stating the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and Christmas is most obviously an apt time to do so.
It is hardly surprising that his comments have upset those who advocate the "religion of the free market" ("American right tears into Pope's attack on free market", December 27).
It must be remembered that some 2,000 years ago Jesus was upsetting the Jewish establishment with His views on money, wealth and social injustice. Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air for all Christians, not just Catholics, as he has focused on the simplicity of the Gospel's spiritual message rather than on complex modern mental interpretations.
His down-to-earth and humble approach has hit a chord with ordinary people and figures show that Pope Francis drew three times as many to Vatican City in 2013 compared to his predecessor.
Christian Rogers, Wan Chai
Instil green habits in children
Our environmental problems are becoming more serious, however, I have noticed that some teenagers do not seem to care.
The most serious form of pollution in Hong Kong is our bad air, caused by factories, power stations and exhaust fumes from vehicles. This can cause respiratory problems for people. Pedestrians also have to put up with second-hand smoke from people smoking in the streets.
Individuals can play their part to lower pollution levels, such as walking and, where possible, cycling, or using public transport instead of a car.
We can help to use less in the way of precious resources by, for example, using both sides of a page, and we should join tree planting days that are organised by green groups.
I would like to see these habits being instilled in children, habits that stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Jamie So Kwan-kiu, Yau Yat Chuen
Japan is wrong in dispute over Diaoyu Islands
Trefor Moss claims that "it was China's growing power - and its open antipathy towards all things Japanese - that helped persuade Tokyo that it had to start doing more to protect itself" ("Off the leash", December 30).
The fact is that Tokyo unilaterally fired the first shot in damaging relations with China by nationalising three of the Diaoyu Islands in September 2012. Japan only has itself to blame. But Moss doesn't even mention the controversy, as if it never existed.
The Diaoyu Islands were always considered Chinese territory, even by the Meiji government which seized the islands during the first Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. One can find Japanese references to the islands as being "Chinese territory" in documents held by the Japanese National Archives and the National Institute for Defence Studies. At the end of the second world war, the Allies forced Japan to return all territories it seized from China during the previous 50 or so years. Taiwan was one such territory. Asia was to revert to its pre-1895 status although Korea was to become truly independent. In 1971, the US improperly handed administration of the Diaoyu Islands to Japan.
When Beijing and Taipei objected, then-Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka agreed to shelve the issue. But in 2012, this arrangement was disturbed when the Japanese government "bought" three of the islands from their so-called Japanese owner.
Moss should be chastising Japan, not China, for the strained relationship. After wrongly nationalising the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan insists on calling the Senkaku Islands, Tokyo now feels the need to defend those "rocks" by increasing its defence spending by trillions of yen over the next decade or so. China has every right to express its unhappiness.
Unfortunately, Moss and others try to find excuses for Japan to increase its arms build-up and revise its pacifist constitution.
John Chiu, New York, US
Pleasant sitting-out area has gone
I agree with the letter by Helen Ma ("Public space abused for private profit", December 28) that our Leisure and Cultural Services Department bends over backwards to accommodate developers.
These civil servants do not appear to appreciate basketball, as besides closing the court at Garden Road to facilitate private demolition work, the courts at Wan Chai's Southorn playground will soon be suspended.
This is to allow the developers of "The Avenue" , formerly the popular Lee Tung ("Wedding Card") Street, to construct a pedestrian subway under Johnston Road to connect the Wan Chai MTR station concourse with their shopping mall.
Also, in adjacent Amoy Street, there used to be a pleasant sitting-out area which was controlled by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, but ominously this has now disappeared behind the works hoardings of "The Avenue" construction site.
Is it now to be incorporated into this Urban Renewal Authority project?
Perhaps it will become the entrance and exit for this subway?
The Town Planning Board rejected the URA's application to inject this Amoy Street public open space into its H15 project.
The URA was hoping to increase the site area and thus the size of the redevelopment. Could it be that the authority and the department have come to a cosy agreement that the developers will now manage this open space?
Based on the experience of how private developers normally handle their public open spaces, this would be against the public interest.
Frank Lee, Mid-Levels
MPF scheme members must consider risk
I refer to the letter by Dennis Li ("Allow Tracker Fund option for MPF", December 27).
The Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority (MPFA) has been striving to bring down the fee levels of MPF funds and encouraging MPF providers to offer more index fund choices.
As at the end of 2013, of the 400-plus Mandatory Provident Funds (MPF funds), 25 were passively managed index tracking funds, a marked increase from 12 as at the end of 2010.
Among the 25, 16 track the Hang Seng Index and 10 of them fully invest in the Tracker Fund of Hong Kong.
However, we must point out that index tracking funds have the same volatility of the stock market that the funds replicate.
Scheme members should also consider their risk tolerance level when making the selection.
Betty Chan, head (external affairs), Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority